My blog is called Alyssa Writes. Unfortunately, my last name isn’t Write, but now I totally wish it was – at least the title would make sense. I named my blog this because I felt it would make it easier to re-brand or expand beyond a travel blog. It also wouldn’t confine me to just writing about travel – Alyssa Writes is a place for me to express myself and my opinions. I’ve been thinking about my niche a lot lately, talking about it with people like Lilian from Travel Armadillo who had a similar dilemma.
What kind of blog is this?
The niche. You’ll hear a lot of people asking about this, especially when it comes to the “business of blogging”.
I don’t really have one. I don’t really want one. If I had to put a label, I suppose I would be more of a slow-travel/expat blogger. In all honesty I just want to write what I feel like writing in the hopes that someone finds value or entertainment in it. I know I do.
Why “Alyssa Writes”?
I should at least explain my writing philosophy – especially as it pertains to travel.
I think that everyone is a storyteller. I believe in doing what is right for you and what makes you happy and following your personal journey. You know, living authentically and stuff. For me, and this blog, writing and travel is a metaphor for the journey of living.
On my first day as an intern at the Barrie Examiner, I was told by one of the photographers:
“Just tell the truth – yours or someone else’s – and you’ll be fine.”
‘Storytelling’ can have a negative connotation that implies a person is inventing a story, or ‘telling a tall tale’. But even in tall tales there is truth: the truth that the person is a liar, is delusional, or is a child with an active imagination. Fiction stories, even the most fantastical of them, speak to a wider reality that resonates with somebody’s truth.
I try to use my psychology degree in my writing and in my travel. Not in an obvious way, but motivations, social interaction and the effects of emotion on behaviour influence how I think and write about things. Social justice factors in as well. Those two things combine to help me examine life in its complexity and diversity. Finally my random university majors are explained.
Forest or Trees?
The burden of this is that I’ve been known to ‘miss the forest for the trees’. I focus so much on the details that I miss the big picture. Stepping back while maintaining a critical eye is probably one of the most difficult things for me. It has crossed my mind that in trying to ‘figure out’ a person – and even a place – I fail. There’s an emphasis in travel writing on seeking out the authentic. I think that in doing so, we miss what’s truly there, because what we, as outsiders, believe is authenticity is influenced by our own pre-conceived notions of a person or place. Every place is a living and breathing entity, so, like people, they are always changing and impossible to definitively know.
Scientifically, observation is important to understanding the effects of different variables. Similarly, in travel, I believe that it is important to spend some time observing the community you want to get to know. Maybe I am an immersive traveller. Is that a thing? I think of travel as building a relationship rather than a one-night stand, if you get what I mean.
After realizing how superficial travel can be, I make an effort to just do what everyone else does – not my fellow travellers but the people who are from there – live the lifestyle, eat the food, see their conception of ‘culture’.
I used to have anxiety about that moment when I would finally think, ‘I am so bored,’ or ‘I’m totally over this place.’ Now I welcome it. I see it as both an achievement and a challenge. I’ve done what I wanted, but now it’s time to push myself to find more – to think outside the box and discover something different. Committing to a certain time in a place means I’m going to make equal effort throughout that time. Being ‘done’ or ‘over’ somewhere is somewhat arrogant; even after 15 months on a small-island I was still learning new things daily.
I do use this term very loosely, especially for categorizing my posts, but I try hard not use it elsewhere. The Caribbean history professor I talked about in this article also told us never to use the word ‘culture’ in an essay. She explained that the word is so overused it barely has a meaning anymore. She told us to always think about what we really mean when we want to use that word, and write that instead. Do you mean traditions? Heritage? Lifestyle? Music? Customs? Dance? (Yes, I was being lazy by writing it above).
Because of this emphasis on telling the truth – mine or someone else’s – when writing, I am telling you about me: about who I am and about my life. Writing is life, life travel. How I write is how I want to live – free.